The World Health Organization has endorsed the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine, the first against the mosquito-borne disease that globally kills a child every two minutes. India is among the countries that carry a high burden of malaria – 7,700 deaths in 2019.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Photo: Pixabay
The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the first ever vaccine for malaria, a vector-borne disease, which kills a child every two minutes across the globe. Children under five years of age are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was quoted as saying.
The global public health body yesterday on October 7 endorsed the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine.
“Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” Ghebreyesus added.
According to the World Malaria Report 2020, malaria claimed 7,700 lives in India in 2019, which means more than 21 deaths every day. The country accounts for 86 per cent of malaria deaths and 88 per cent of malaria cases in the WHO South-East Asia Region in 2019.
The WHO warned that India is among the countries that carry a high burden of malaria — a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
There are five parasite species that cause malaria in humans, and two of these species – P. falciparum and P. vivax – pose the greatest threat.
In what is claimed as the ‘historic moment’, WHO recommends that the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine be used for the prevention of P. falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally.
WHO’s recommendation is based on the advice of its two global advisory bodies, one for immunisation and the other for malaria. This malaria vaccine can be delivered through child health clinics by Ministries of Health, and readily reach children at high coverage levels, tweeted the WHO.
The announcement has come after a review of a pilot programme being implemented since 2019 in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. So far, more than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine have already been administered in the three African countries.
“Data from the pilot programme showed that more than two-thirds of children in the 3 countries who are not sleeping under a bednet are benefitting from the RTS,S vaccine,” reads the WHO statement dated October 6.
The malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01, WHO recommends, should be provided in a schedule of four doses in children from five months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden. It is said that there’s no negative impact on uptake of bednets, other childhood vaccinations, or health seeking behavior for febrile illness.
The Government of India has developed a National Framework for Malaria Elimination (2016-2030) and a National Strategic Plan (NSP, 2017-2022) with the aim to eliminate malaria (zero indigenous cases) in all Category 1 and 2 districts by 2022. In Category 3 or the highest transmission districts, the target is to bring them under a pre-elimination and elimination programme by 2022.